The Search Begins

“Good luck. Hope you like it,” said the tall, attractive fellow as I exited the elevator with my real estate agent.

He and his equally tall, fit friend in the elevator were smiling at me, and I smiled a “thank you” in return.

As we headed down the hall towards a unit in the trendy, new-ish Mutual Street condo, I’d already prepared myself for the fact the place would be tiny. I wasn’t kidding myself; I was really going for curiosity’s sake.

The moment after my agent turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open, I found out just HOW TINY this place was.

The bathroom was just big enough to turn around in – once.

The bedroom was so small, there was a curtain over the “entrance”, instead of a standard wall with a door. And there was nothing separating the “kitchen” from the “living room”.

The best feature was probably the balcony.

In all, the condo was barely 430 square feet, if that. And it was selling for nearly a quarter of a million dollars.

And thus, that warm Monday night was my official introduction to the world of real estate.

Or, as I like to call it, Condo Hunt 2009.

It’s been about six years of saving … nearly two years of pining, whinging and yowling about wanting my own place … and about four or five months of restlessness and anxiety just to get to the “property hunting” phase, never mind obsessively staring at stretched digital photos on MLS. (Ah, house porn).

Of course, because of low interest rates, I’m now up against a three-alarm-fire of a real estate market … which means four words I dread most in the glossary of real estate vocabulary –

“Multiple offers” and “Bidding war”.

As a single woman, I’m screwed against couples, and other rich singles.

That is, if a property will stay on the market long enough for me to even look at it, never mind make an offer. The units my agent e-mails me –  to see if I’m interested – are usually gone within a few days of appearing on the market.

And from what my real estate agent said to me this evening, it sounds like this scary scenario will likely continue into the fall.

Since starting this week, I’ve only seen four units. That’s actually not bad. But from the sounds of it,  the odds of me finding something this year, this fall, are probably 10-1. Scratch that –  more like 500-1.

Oh, well.

At least I’m still saving money.

6 thoughts on “The Search Begins

  1. Are real estate agents worth it in terms of finding potential places? I mean, aren’t almost all properties on MLS? I find their website terrific and have been keeping an eye on it myself. Dunno if I wanna buy anything, but I’m at least contemplating it and getting a sense of the market in the meantime. I check MLS almost every day – scanning properties in my price range in the neighbourhoods that I like.

    Get away from the downtown condos and you might find something more attractive. I’ve seen some condos in that Mutual Street neighbourhood and, yes, they are ridiculous. I’d rather rent and be liquid than settle for something I can’t be comfortable in.

  2. dicampbell says:

    Phil,

    Lemme put it like this (at least, from my point of view):

    Yes, most (not all) properties are on sites like MLS or Zoocasa, so you don’t need an agent to scan listing online or to gauge house/condo/townhouse prices. Scanning MLS is pretty much what I’ve done for the better part of the past year.

    But unless you’re a first-time buyer who’s freakishly well-versed in the intricacies of what to look for in potential properties when going to showings, knowing exactly what kind of offer to make on a property, etc. (or you’ve got access to family members or friends in the business, thereby elimating the need for an agent), having an agent – a GOOD agent representing your interests – doesn’t neccessarily hurt.

    Yes, anyone who’s a potential (first-time) buyer SHOULD do their own research outside of this. But ideally, an agent is supposed to keep you abreast of potential listings JUST coming on the market.

    The MLS listings ARE fairly current, but I think they only update the site every so often – not everyday. So it’s not exactly hot off the presses. And when a place is sold, they don’t necessarily come down right away. I’ve already learned this when e-mailing a realtor for more info about a listing and getting “CONDITIONAL SOLD” as a response.

    And when it comes to physically LOOKING at properties, anyone can attend an open house. But how many other properties are by appointment only or require an agent?

    For me, having an agent gets me into a few more properties to poke around, rather than visiting a listing online, with digital pictures that are stretched or try to make a place look bigger than it actually might be.

    Besides, it doesn’t cost a thing – until you buy something.

    I’m sure there are PLENTY of other people out there who are doing just fine without a real estate agent, thanks very much.

    But for me, having someone there to answer questions about things I’m unsure of, because of my inexperience, gives me more peace of mind.

    As for the anecdote I gave about Mutual Street, I’d NEVER live there – or anywhere downtown. I already know that I’d be lucky to find anything bigger than a shoebox. The showing was just to satisfy my own hunches, based on what I’d seen on MLS.

    Chances are, if I’m successful, I’ll end up somewhere uptown or east of the core.

  3. stine says:

    It’s not suprising…. Thank god there’s Ikea’s solutions or the 500sq space.
    Would you get a better deal with a new condo, before they put a shovel into the gorund? Sure there’s a wait, but it sounds like it may be a while that you find something you’re happy with.
    Well, good luck!

  4. dicampbell says:

    Initially, yes, I’d probably get a “better” deal with a new condo, since I wouldn’t worry about the price going up during any of the closing dates.

    But here’s the thing people seem to overlook – or maybe it doesn’t bother them as much as it does me:

    When a developer has a condo registered – and owners start receiving titles to their property – owners have to start paying something called an occupancy fee – I found this Web page, which has a more accurate explanation than I can give:

    http://www.simplycondos.com/articles/occupancy_fees.htm

    This money doesn’t go towards your mortgage – it’s treated as “rent” being paid to your developer. The article in the URL provided above said it’s over a 3-4 month period. Perhaps that’s true, but I’m not sure how accurate that is.

    In any case, I’d rather be in a situation where I can just start paying my mortgage right away.

  5. stine says:

    I didn’t know about that occupancy fee, thanks. That’s a suprise. I guess if you were thinking about it, you’d have to figure out if the fee adds up to more OR less than the overall difference in condo price – and decide if that’s a deal.

  6. Allyson says:

    Not that Ottawa’s cheap, but I’ll definitely be staying put if it’s quarter of a million for something so small. 1700 sq foot semis are going for less than that in my neighbourhood.

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